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Ask The Mayor: Columbus Lienhoop On Flooding, Solar Power, E-cig Ban

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Fourth of July holiday events, homeowner repair shop dispute, health officials urging an e-cig ban, and four developers are vying for the conference center project.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: I see where Columbus Regional Health officials are urging city leaders to include e-cigs in the smoking ordinance, what's the current ordinance and your thoughts?

Lienhoop: The current ordinance talks about cigarettes and cigars, something that emits smoke. And it says you can't have that in any public accommodation or within 10 feet of entry of a public accommodation. So we're trying to understand what the effect that might have, do proprietors care? If so, how much? How much smoke will that cut down upon and what other effects might it have on a particular business.

grass lot near county jail
One possible location of the Columbus Conference Center next to the county jail. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: Last time we talked about prospective architects/developers for the proposed downtown conference center. You had a great turnout, now you're asking for a request for qualifications and from what I heard, you got a few back?

Lienhoop: We had 11 - we're pretty excited. And the quality of the people who responded. We read through the written submission and had telephone interviews, and we've reduced the number down to four and those folks will be asked to submit proposals.  They'll be given a couple of months to prepare and due back end of August or first of September. From that, we'll have on site interviews and make a decision about where to go.

The ultimate decision will come from the redevelopment commission, so the Heritage Fund group will make a recommendation. There will be a couple of public sessions where the public will be given an opportunity to see what the proposals show and weigh in on which ones they like.

Parking Lot near county jail
Parking lot next to the county jail is another proposed spot for the conference center. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: We have two questions from Michael who emailed in, "What planning initiatives are you and the city council making to address likely increased rainfall and flooding as predicted by climate scientists, particularly given the cities flooding history?"

Lienhoop: Following the 2008 flood, we undertook a significant analysis and review of activities throughout the community and basically came away with two things. We have gauges now that will give us more warning before a flood comes. The second thing is we revised our flood maps so people understand which areas are more likely to flood. 

We've taken a look at trying to clean up the stream banks, that's a little more difficult than you might think. The Department of Natural Resources are pretty protective. We continue to take a look at it because we know how sensitive the community is the affect the water has on us.

Hren: Michael also writes in, "Is Columbus actively considering installing solar in much the manner as has been done in North Vernon?  It was great to hear that BCSC is planning to install solar in the near future.  How about the city?"

Lienhoop: We're taking a look at solar, particularly with respect with city utilities and the wastewater treatment plant, but a little too soon to say what we're going to be able to do.

Empty parking lot at Fair Oaks Mall
Public forums on redevelopment of Fair Oaks Mall begin this month. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: I know you had a quick update on the redevelopment of Fair Oaks Mall?

Lienhoop: We've retained a site consultant, we have a vision, but we also want to listen to the public to see what thoughts and comments they may have. So there's two or three of these scheduled, but the first will be July 11th 6:00 p.m. at the mall.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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